The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga fought and fought and fought to get on the scoreboard Saturday.
When it finally happened, on a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Terrell Robinson, the Mocs led Furman 7-6 with 4:16 to play in the fourth quarter in front of a crowd of 9,239 at Finley Stadium.
That lead lasted slightly more than two minutes. The Paladins got a long kickoff return, a long completion and eventually scored on Jerodis Williams's 10-yard run to pull out a gritty 14-7 win.
With the loss the Mocs drop to 4-5, 2-4 in the Southern Conference, and their hopes of winning out to have a shot at the NCAA playoffs came to a crushing end.
"We're going to play for what we can play for, and that is a winning season," UTC running back J.J. Jackson said. "We're not a 4-5 team. We've had some tough breaks in close games, and in this conference, with our schedule, it's tough to come by a win."
The Mocs held Furman (5-3, 4-2) to 261 yards. All but 106 came on five pass plays, the most important of which was a 23-yard completion from Chris Forcier to Sederrick Cunningham on the winning drive.
Following Robinson's touchdown, Furman got a 31-yard kickoff return to the Paladins' 47-yard line. On first down, Forcier (9-of-14, 177 yards) hit Cunningham to the UTC 30. Four plays later, Williams ran the ball in for a touchdown to make it 14-7 with 2:06 to play.
"The bottom line is, you can't give them the ball on the [47-yard line] on the kickoff," Mocs coach Russ Huesman said. "You just can't do it. There's no way. When they need a field goal, they can't start a drive on the ."
The defense, Huesman said, "played really well" other than a couple of plays. UTC's offense was a different matter. The Mocs managed just 169 yards, including only one completed pass for 3 yards.
Robinson had given defenses fits since taking over for the injured B.J. Coleman, but the Paladins were ready for him. Robinson finished with 87 yards rushing on 32 attempts. He was sacked five times, threw two interceptions, fumbled once and completed 1 of 7 passes.
"We didn't have a great day, starting with me," he said. "[The interceptions] were careless balls. We harp each week on ball security, and we didn't do that today."
Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said he put together a "bad plan" for the game and the offensive line struggled to hold its own against a physical Furman defense.
"It didn't look like we were getting a lot of push up front and we could never get in a rhythm. You can't even decide what you want to run and what you don't want to run," Satterfield said. "It was a bad plan and I've got to put together a better plan than that. That's a joke."
After a scoreless first half, Furman took a 3-0 lead in the third quarter on a Ray Early field goal following Robinson's first interception.
The Mocs set up for a 44-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-4 at the Furman 27 but then tried a fake with holder Sloan Allison lined up at quarterback. Allison tried to hit tight end Faysal Shafaat but put too much air under the ball and the pass was batted down.
Furman got another field goal on the ensuing drive, but the Mocs then drove to take the lead -- with a bit of good fortune along the way.
Wideout Joel Bradford's punt on fourth-and-9 at the UTC 27 bounced off a Furman blocker and was recovered by UTC's Don Cope at the Paladin 43.
The Mocs then drove 43 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-6 lead on Robinson's 1-yard plunge. After Furman scored and converted a two-point play to go up 14-7, UTC got the ball back at its 23 with 1:56 remaining.
On first down, Robinson was sacked and stripped and Furman's do-it-all player Mitch McGrath recovered the loose ball. McGrath finished with four sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recover and an interception.
UTC must win at Samford next week and beat No. 9 Wofford on Nov. 19 to post a third straight 6-5 season.
John Frierson is in his fifth year at the Times Free Press and fifth year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...